Google's initial plans were not about making revenue directly from transactions, but to instead collect data and then sell targeted ads, a very familiar Google model. But what got short shrift was finding a way to get shoppers to use its app. Unlike the Web where it had a very robust search engine to draw in consumers, its mobile wallet was entirely dependent on retailers and payment players to promote it to shoppers, something that no one (other than Google) had much of an incentive to do. And with losses as extreme as the ones Google was facing, adding a lot of marketing dollars to those losses was not a winning argument to Google senior brass.
Osama Bedier, the former PalPal exec who took over Google Wallet (and is now about to become a former Google exec as well), has confirmed what most suspected: that the fees Google had to agree to pay to the card brands meant that it lost money on every transaction. (Good news for Google: It didn't make very many transactions.) "The company has dedicated hundreds of developers to Wallet and spent about $300 million to acquire digital payment startups to help develop the app. But consumers aren’t sold," reported BusinessWeek. "Wallet has been downloaded fewer than 10 million times in the two years since its launch, according to Play, Google’s app store."